Many today know the controversial Victorian dramatist Oscar Wilde, through his works the “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and The “Importance of Being Earnest.” Larger than life, Wilde was a poet, dramatist, author, and celebrity, donning many quite fashionable hats.
His work and spirit are as relevant, witty, and alive as ever 112 years after his death.
Here are ten interesting facts about Oscar Wilde:
Wilde was born with three middle names. His full name is “Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde,” born in Dublin in 1854.
His mother, Jane Wilde was a successful poet and Irish nationalist whose pen name was “Sperenza.” His father was also an author but more well known for his work as an oto-ophthalmologic and for being knighted for his work as an assistant commissioner to the censuses of Ireland.
Wilde was an impressive linguist. Home schooled, he was taught French and German and also had working knowledge of Italian and Ancient Greek.
Wilde, adding “lecturer” to his array of talents, embarked on a tour of America in 1882 and held talks on a wide variety of subjects from “The English Renaissance” to “Decorative Art.”
Wilde married Constance Lloyd on May 29, 1884 and had two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan. Cyril fought and died in World War I in the Battle of Festubert in France where he is buried. Vyvyan and Cyril changed their last name to Holland, like his mother, after their father’s imprisonment. Vyvyan went on to become a translator for the BBC and author of the autobiography ‘Son of Oscar Wilde’ (1954). Vyvyan’s son and Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland, published the Oscar Wilde biography ‘A Portrait of Oscar Wilde’ (2008).
Though thought of as an author, he only published one novel, “The Portait of Dorian Gray” (1891).
He was an advocate of socialism and in his only political essay “The Soul of Man under Socialism” (1891) Wilde expounds an anarchist philosophy.
Before his death due to cerebral meningitis he was conditionally baptized in the Catholic Church.
Oscar Wilde’s last words were “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go.”
His famous tomb was designed by Sir Jacob Epstein, whose ashes were placed alongside Wilde in the structure in 1950 per his request. The Angel statue adorning the tomb was originally installed with male genitalia which has since been vandalized.